Dear Bill

Mr. Gates,

  We have met on two occasions, although I do not expect you to remember me.  You spent both opportunities to ask me what I thought about Microsoft, and what I thought you could improve on.

You have provided me with a method to make a living for over 20 years – you built the foundation that I built off of.  You did so willingly, and you encouraged me to contribute, and to profit.

You forced me to help build Windows drivers that worked without interrupting the user experience – you forced excellence even though it took great effort and expense on our part (and yours).  You were right to be strict.  You were right to be demanding.

I have been a beta tester of every version of Windows since “Windows for Pen Computing”.  We have not always agreed, but we have gotten along.  You have always built products that included tools I could use to profit from.  I appreciate that.

And now your tools are finally almost free – and I think Microsoft will benefit from that move greatly.  I know many young programmers, especially in emerging nations that are already benefiting from that.

More importantly, you have demonstrated the value of giving back – and I have tried to follow that example.  I help people when and where I can – and even though I know I cannot ever have the level of charitable contribution that you have – I strive to do my part.

I have never been a “fanboy” – not of Apple, or Microsoft, or anything else – I have always been a realist – I use the right tool for the right job.  For 20+ years the right tool has often been a Microsoft tool.  Not always, but often.

Although I use a lot of Microsoft products, I also use Linux and Mac OS.  Again – the right tool for the job.

I also met Ray Ozzie at “When 2.0” at Stanford in 2005 – I am confident that the intellectual path for Microsoft is in good hands.  Ray is an amazingly low-key guy.  He hides his brain-power behind a stand-offish grin that is both friendly and challenging at the same time.

I think you leave Microsoft in good hands, and honestly, I think people have (and will continue to) under-estimate what Microsoft is doing.  XBOX, Microsoft Points, Media Center – all wonderful products that make my life just a bit more “fun”.  Fun is important.

  Go and do great things for charity, Bill.  Let that be your legacy.  Microsoft was your “Bill 1.0”.  I firmly believe “Bill 2.0” will have an even greater impact on the world.

Don’t look back – you’ve left things in good hands.  Help the children.  Inspire the world.  Change things, yet again.

I have been glad to have met you – but I imagine I would rather meet you ten years from now – when you have helped change the world again – not just the computer world, but the real world, for real people.  The ones that most need your help.

Rob